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Is Islam a Cancer?

Entry 1824, on 2016-12-01 at 23:00:42 (Rating 4, Religion)

According to a recent news item I read, Donald Trump's new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has called Islam a "cancer". It's an interesting claim, and one which most people would either agree or disagree with depending on their political persuasion, without really thinking about it.

But at this blog I like to think about a claim before passing judgement on it, so let's have a look at the idea to see if it has any merit.

First of all, I don't think anyone thinks this claim should be taken literally. I mean, obviously Islam isn't actually a cancer, because a cancer is "a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body" according to the Oxford Dictionary. But there is a more metaphorical sense, which is "an evil or destructive practice or phenomenon that is hard to contain or eradicate". Clearly, this sense is more interesting.

The next problem is what do we mean by "Islam"? Are we referring to the religion, or the political view, or the group of people who follow certain beliefs? And are we referring to the whole of those phenomena or just the extremes, or more literal parts? I'm guessing we mean the religious belief system based on the ideas attributed to Mohammed in the Koran, and supplemented by material in the Hadith, and to all parts of that worldview apart from where the ideas have been so liberalised that they are virtually unrecognisable.

So is the traditional form of Islam (the religion) an evil or destructive practice or phenomenon that is hard to contain or eradicate? I think a very good case could be made to say that this is true, although I probably wouldn't use the word "evil" because it has too many religious connotations, but surely destructive isn't over-stating the case.

The next question is, do the good parts of Islam (because every belief system has good and bad parts) outweigh the bad? That is difficult to evaluate because as an atheist from a country which has a small number of Muslims it's hard to get a fair idea of what the good parts are. Clearly many people find it compelling because they base their lives around it, and in the past Islamic scholars have made huge contributions to the world, but whether that is enough is debatable.

Next we must evaluate whether other religions are just as bad, which might indicate that Islam is being unfairly singled out from the others. Interestingly there are a wide variety of opinions on this. Only a small fraction of violence in the US is initialed by Muslims, but if you look at the list of international terrorist incidents on Wikipedia the vast majority have a direct link with Islam (although I sometimes suspect that if Islam is involved in an act of violence it is more likely to be categorised as terror, therefore this isn't entirely fair).

And not only do Islamic groups cause a large number of incidents, they also seem to be responsible for the most horrendous and violent acts. Groups like Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, Jundallah, Al-Shabaab, Taliban, and others, are not only mindless killers, they are also sadistic torturers of innocent people.

It seems very clear at this point that Islam is the source of far more problems than any other religion. I agree that it has not always been like that and may not be that way in the future, but it is now.

So I think that any religion - when taken too seriously - could be thought of as a sickness. But it is better to say what we really think, without the shortcuts, or memorable sound bites. Let's say this: "any irrational belief, including religion, when taken to extremes, is clearly bad for both the individual and society as a whole."

It's not quite as catchy as calling a whole belief system a cancer, but it's a lot more accurate.

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Comment 9 (4642) by OJB on 2016-12-11 at 11:42:54: (view earlier comments)

Yes, I think you might be over-stating the case a bit. For example, how can they "take over" after reaching just 10%? For example the proportion of Muslims in Israel is 14%. Have they taken over there? Do they have Sharia Law?

OTOH, there are definite similarities to religions and diseases. I think of religion as being a "mind virus", responsive to evolution (rather ironically) and not necessarily conferring any advantage on the host.

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Comment 10 (4643) by Derek Ramsey on 2016-12-24 at 10:11:31:

Cases where secularism leads to bad consequences

Just a quick list in no particular order without much explanation:
1) Belief in overpopulation (e.g. China)
2) No-Fault Divorce
3) Abortion
4) Title IX (rape and bathrooms)
5) Pre-martial sex, co-habitation, and STIs.
6) Euthanasia (e.g. Netherlands)
7) Lying
8) Political correctness (as leads to censorship, etc)
9) Totalitarianism (e.g. Progressivism/Socialism/Communism/Facism)
10) Adultery
11) Birth Control

Iím sure Iím missing some obvious stuff, but I didnít spend a whole lot of time on it. Secularism in the context of this whole discussion is the common systems of belief that do not include (and especially reject) religion, especially Christianity.

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Comment 11 (4644) by OJB on 2016-12-24 at 10:12:42:

Iíve got to say I canít remember the last time I heard anything quite so absurd. Letís have a look at your listÖ

1. Overpopulation? Like that caused by religious beliefs where Catholicism has prevented birth control, or where Muslims are encouraged to increase the numbers in their faith? Compared with the least religious countries like those of Europe? Are you for real?

2. If two people donít want to live together and agree to separate what is the problem? Are you saying itís better for them to continue to live unhappily together just for some philosophical preference religious people might have? Are you for real?

3. I have stated my opinion in the past that abortion is one area where I havenít got a firm opinion but we do know that if well organised abortion services arenít available people resort to dangerous alternatives. Is that what you want? Are you for real?

4. Title IX appears to relate to gender equality, including use of bathrooms for trans-gender and other people who donít identify with the traditional gender roles. In what way is this a problem, and how does is it relate to atheism anyway? Are you for real?

5. When you say pre-martial sex, co-habitation, and STIs are you referring to the greater proportion of those occurring in religious populations, such as Catholics? And what is wrong with that anyway (apart from the STIs which can be avoided using condoms which religions forbid). Are you for real?

6. I can see how euthanasia might be mis-used but with sensible rules itís the only humane option a society could accept. Do you really believe a society should force a dying person to live through a horrible illness when they donít want to? Are you for real?

7. So atheism encourages lying? Really? Considering religion is the greatest mass lie the world has ever seen? Are you for real?

8. I canít quite see the link between atheism and political correctness. I donít like PC but I know just as many religious people who take it too far as atheists who do. So, again, it looks like you got this wrong. In fact: are you for real?

9. Totalitarianism is a result of atheism, is it? And progressivism and socialism are forms of totalitarianism? Are you for real?

10. Adultery is discouraged by many people. In many religions it is punishable by death, such as stoning. This is a good idea? Are you for real?

11. What? birth control is a bad thing? What about point 1, overpopulation. Isnít that also a bad thing? I just canít see your logic. Are you for real?

Wow, I canít believe your list was so ridiculous. Even for a religious person, you are totally out of touch with reality. Itís sad that such irrational and intolerant beliefs can be held by someone who has an obvious good level of intelligence. Still, thatís what religion does!

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Comment 12 (4645) by Derek Ramsey on 2016-12-24 at 10:13:13:

Oh, you really did make me laugh.

You asked for a list so donít blame me. Do you really think you can judge a complex viewpoint on the basis of a one or two word description without engaging me on what I actually believe? Apparently you do.

You very plainly donít have the foggiest idea why I listed each of those points, because you jump straight to assumptions, generalizations, and sheer nonsense. Is there a specific point you would like me to expound upon, or are we just going to keep diving down the rabbit hole?

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Comment 13 (4646) by OJB on 2016-12-24 at 10:13:35:

Well Iím glad I made you laugh because I was trying to keep it light (hence the repetition of my catch phrase). Iím not sure which point is the most relevant so letís just start with 1: overpopulation is caused by atheism (I know we used ďsecularismĒ before but I wanted to extend it a bit, if thatís not OK, stick with secularism).

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